A Book About Embarrassing Families (and I didn’t write it), or my review of Anansi Boys

Anansi Boys

Anansi Boys

By: Neil Gaiman 

Publisher: William Morrow

Publication Date: January 22nd, 2008

Format: Kindle E-Book


Fat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage.

Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother. Now brother Spider is on his doorstep—about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting . . . and a lot more dangerous.

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4 star (griffin)


‘Wow’, regular readers of the blog might be marveling, ‘Has Rosi ever given less than five stars to a Neil Gaiman book before?’ The answer is probably no, since he is one of my favorite authors living, and I would give my eyeteeth to write as well as he does, but Anansi Boys is an exception. Something about it just felt off to me.

Not that it’s a bad book at all–I very much enjoyed it. But the first mistake was touting it as a sequel to American Gods, which is one of my all-time favorite books, when actually it just happens that it’s set in the same universe and a minor character shows up in both. So that was disappointment #1, because I really wanted to see Shadow and all of the rest of the gods again.

Disappointment #2 was that the plot wasn’t done in a way that pulled me in. Having lived with embarrassing parents and annoying brothers for the past 21 years or so, my response to Fat Charlie’s problems was to shrug and go ‘so what?’ Yes, parents and brothers with God-like powers are technically worse, but I really feel like my family does have god-like powers of embarrassment and annoyance (if my family is reading this, I do still love all of you).

The plot was also lacking in the subtle touch I was used to–I mean, from the moment the plot indicated that Fat Charlie had both a fiancee and a brother, you could figure what was going to happen, one way or the other. And from the moment that Daisy slept over, you could figure out where the plot was going there, too. Unfortunately, there were also some leaps in understanding–I still don’t really understand the Big Baddie of the book, and especially not how he went from scheming businessman to evil foe of Anansi.

But that’s a lot of things I didn’t like. Things I did like included the way Gaiman used (or rather, didn’t use) race. You can figure out that Fat Charlie and his family are of African descent–because, duh, Mr. Nancy is the African God Anansi–but it’s not stated explicitly anywhere. I loved that Daisy was African-Asian mixed-race, and that Gaiman vividly drew the South Florida culture where Fat Charlie came from, and then the Carribean culture where he ends up. It’s not a perfect world (take Laura’s mother, for instance), but the characters that object are inevitably drawn as either mean to everyone or in some way evil.

I also like how subtly Gaiman draws Fat Charlie’s growth–you hardly notice it until the end, where you suddenly realise that during the course of the book he’s accepted all of the information about his father, and in some way become another aspect of Anansi, rather like Spider.  And it’s also without some insane, showy bit of magic. In fact, I like to think that Fat Charlie just found the magic within himself, and that we can all do the same.

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.

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